Lessons from the Presidential Debates

by | Jul 9, 2019 | Culture, Ethics, High Road Leadership

Save the Unicorns

“We must not eat the Unicorns!”

This was the advice delivered by the President of the Northwest Chapter of the National Speakers Association at her leadership retreat. Elisa Hays wanted the members of her board of directors to have a singular focus on our member for that year, and Unicorns was her metaphor.

The modern-day usage of unicorn is to describe something valuable, rare, or special. A unicorn can also be an advantage. This speaker’s group’s unicorns were solid useful content, a great visitor experience, and adding value to members, among other activities.


She cajoled us that it was our duty to amplify these assets and protect them. This attitude would help us grow the chapter and retain members.

American Unicorns

The U.S. has unicorns; not in the shape of a living animal, but in the form of attributes that makes us unique among nations. Our unicorns are Freedoms, Values, Diversity, and Progress, to name a few.

American Freedoms include the freedom of religion, the privilege of voting, and the right to assemble. I’d say the most important is the freedom from fear.

American Values are ones that we benefit from if all people practice: integrity, honesty compassion, independence. Two that I love are lifting / helping others up and embracing / accepting people from all heritages, who chose to live here.

American Diversity has made us the Great Melting Pot and is what makes our nation unique.

American Progress has contributed to a high standard of living, unlimited possibilities, and dreamers.


Imagine what this country would be like if these unicorns did not exist! Imagine what your life would be like if these unicorns are killed off. 


The Debates

We have over 20 people running for the position of President of the United States and Custodian of the Unicorns. 15 million tuned in on their televisions Wednesday and 18 million on Thursday to watch these unique debates. Millions more watched via live stream.


In this group of 20 candidates, I witnessed a large amount of diversity: sex, heritage, ages, backgrounds, and beliefs. I saw the fire of passion in many of them. However, the most passion in that debate room radiated form the audience. I felt the heat through my TV.


I cannot help myself! I see leadership insights in almost everything and this debate was no exception. Here are 6½ Lessons from this first round of debates.


Lesson 1: A leader must be engaged.

Most of the 20 showed up to make their cases for the job.


Lesson 2: A leader must have and share a positive message.

Many of these messages only came out in the last minutes of the debates. Several gave messages we have heard many times before (and will again).


Lesson 3: A leader must have and share an uplifting vision of the future he or she wants for us.

Much of the debate time and some of the arguments were about these visions. I’m not sure how many qualified as uplifting.


Lesson 4: A leader must constantly recruit followers.

That is the real work that each of these candidates will need to do. To me, this is more vital than raking in money, yet money is what everyone will use to measure success until the primaries.


Lesson 5: A leader invites us on a journey.

Even when it is a long, hard, and difficult one. This journey is not about getting to election Day 2020. That is only a milestone. The trip these candidates are inviting us to take, lasts until election Day 2024, and possibly beyond that.


Lesson 6: You can lead in two ways.

Way #1 is to protect, preserve, and grow the Unicorns.

Way #2 is to kill and eat the Unicorns.

Which method are you for?


I am a student of leadership and concerned citizen who votes. I will watch this upcoming election and examine the candidates with these questions in mind:

Who is embracing our American Unicorns?

Who is willing to be the Custodian of the Unicorns?

Who is showing up as a true leader and not a politician?

Who will take the High Road® to win this role?


All good leaders serve as custodian of the unicorns of your team, organization, culture, values, mission and many more areas. If this is you, please pay attention to this advice:

Final Lesson: Don’t Kill or Eat the Unicorns!

Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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